If there has ever been a golden age of B-movie genre pictures, the 1970s were that very period. Seeing legendary genre fare ranging from the sci-fi masterwork Death Race 2000 to what may be one of the five greatest horror films of all time, 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the decade became truly one of the greatest spans of 10 years in cinema history, for any and all types of cinephiles, even the ones who preferred blood and guts to brains and philosophizing.
However, not all pictures elevated what has always been deemed a lesser type of feature film. For every Phantasm there is an Incredible Melting Man. And yet, even in the latter film’s mediocrity, a modicum of enjoyment is impossible to avoid.
Directed by one William Sachs, the film follows the story of Steve West who, after returning home following a groundbreaking flight to Saturn, falls victim to a new disease never before seen. With more and more of his body slowly starting to decay away, he becomes hungrier and hungrier for the flesh of humans, breaking from his hospital bed only to terrorize a local neighborhood. With doctor Ted Nelson on his case, the hunt is on for the Incredible Melting Man, with the hopes of finding him before more and more lose their lives at the hands of this new monster.
Easily the film’s strongest suit, the effects work here is absolutely superb. Legendary effects man Rick Baker is behind these top tier effects, which help turn the titular ghoul into something far more interesting than just your run of the mill cinemonster. Creepy, oozing puss out of every pore, the character goes through changes physically throughout the film, and with each new “evolution” of the character, Baker’s effects become more and more off putting, and more and more interesting. Admitting on this new Blu-ray that he initially had absolutely no interest in doing the film, there is a sense of fun and enjoyment behind these effects. A man without the passion that Baker has for his craft would have scoffed at this character, making him look truly campy and far closer to something like The Toxic Avenger than this truly troubling monstrosity.
Admittedly, the film is rather underwhelming as an actual motion picture. The film features a stiff performance (thankfully there is only a handful of verbalized lines from him) from Alex Rebar, the man behind the monster. One of those aforementioned verbalized lines happens to be one of the funniest line readings in film history, a line reading you’ll know after you hear it. Thankfully, Burr DeBenning, who plays Dr. Nelson, elevates the admittedly campy material here. He actually turns in a solid performance here, that while hindered by equally comical line readings, has a sense of inherent humor running through its veins, particularly when he’s hung up on by Myron Healey’s delightfully cliched General Michael Perry.
There are also, thankfully, a couple of genuinely interesting shots here. Primarily found within one sequence involving a sunset, there are a few frames here that are truly greater than this type of film truly deserves, and they really make this more than just a standard ‘70s camp-fest. Toss in a few beats of really well done terror here (the monster at its center is truly quite startling), and you’ve got a film that is a beautiful addition to Shout Factory subsidiary Scream Factory’s ever growing lineup of underrated horror gems.
Oddly enough, the transfer here looks really quite solid. The effects work from Baker is given new life thanks to this restoration, and the cinematography is shockingly good for this level of picture. Director William Sachs hops on a new commentary for the film, that is both pretty entertaining, and may actually be the sole reason to toss this Blu-ray into your player for a second time. He also joins a featurette looking at the film’s making, joined by Rick Baker and fellow effects man Greg Cannom. Rounded out by a collection of trailers, this is a perfect release for any genre hound’s home video shelf.